9 Daily Mental Health Routines that Successful Founders Rely On

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By Janet Choi

Whether it’s a nice cup of tea or coffee or reviewing your diary, regular routines and rituals help forge the discipline, energy, and mental space to consistently make progress.

We reached out to some productivity superstars to ask:

What is one routine or ritual that contributes to your happiness and success?

You may think that the best entrepreneurs that you know are machines.  They get stuff done, never seem to get tired and just crank it out regardless of how they’re feeling and what else is going on in their lives.

It turns out that that’s a myth, and the most productive entrepreneurs are the ones who actively manage their health, well being, and productivity by relying on personal mental health routines.

Routines and rituals are inherently very personal. What works for you won’t necessarily work for somebody else — but the main takeaway here is to prioritize aspects of your life to create balance.

Here’s what they had to say.


“Daily exercise in the morning gets me energized and fired up for the day ahead.

Exercise makes me feel happy and great about myself. This then flows into the day and helps me stay focused and sleep better.

Research has shown that exercise is a keystone habit which makes other habits much easier to develop. My exercise habit has spawned off a number of other habits, such as daily meditation and an evening walk — which also contribute to my personal happiness and success.”

—Joel Gascoigne
Co-founder & CEO, Buffer


“I get up at 6:00 a.m. to have an hour to myself, before the rest of my family wakes up.

I don’t do heavy writing work, but just catch up with my email and social media. Clearing the decks in this way helps me feel calmer during the morning rush, and means that when I sit down at my laptop to do real writing, I’m not distracted by wondering what’s in my various in-boxes and updates. Plus I love the quiet, still atmosphere of morning.”

—Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project


“Adopt a pet. I had two kittens during Meebo. At the end of a long day, nothing soothes your nerves like being greeted at the front door by warm, fuzzy critters who think you’re wonderful.

In the thick of Meebo, the weekdays and weekends flowed together so I planned 3-day weekends to refocus. My favorite California trips include the Phyllo Apple Farm, Mar Vista Cottages, and kayaking in Point Reyes.”

—Elaine Wherry
Co-founder, Meebo

TEDxEAST 5.9.2011

“Taking a walk on the beach with my 22 month-old-son every morning.”

—Ari Meisel
Achievement Architect, Less Doing


“My most important routine is getting some exercise each day.

Whether it’s getting out on my bike, going to yoga, or lifting a few weights at the gym, making that a priority makes me a happier person. Without that ritual, I get grumpy, so even when I have tons of work, I fit it into my day.”

Alexis Grant
Managing Editor, Brazen Life


“Biking to work, and taking the long way home.

Being at the helm of a growing startup while finishing up my undergraduate education means it is difficult to ever truly unplug. The way that I plant two flowers with one seed (my dad raised me not to kill birds) is by biking to work.

Although it is only two miles each way, it is a decent amount of exercise that I automatically get each day, and biking is wonderful solitary time. I often take the long way home or do a lap around my city late at night to clear my mind or shake up my thinking about a problem.”

—Khalil Fuller
Co-founder & CEO, NBA Math Hoops


“Mindful meditation and ‘me time.’

Work will always be there. The stresses of life and of tasks left undone will always be there. Those are the constants, and how we react to them is the variable. How we’re able to affect change is the variable.

So instead of constantly struggling to get ahead, I make it a point to take an hour of each day, or sometimes a whole afternoon in a week to recharge. This is the time I spend refueling, doing creative things that not only satisfy me but give me ideas for the work I’m doing. I also feel less like my clients own me, because I’ve made a decisive effort to take back and own my time.”

—Felicia Sullivan
Writer, Baker, Digital & Consumer Marketer


“Once a month, I get to completely zone out and just think. 

Since I live in San Francisco but work for General Assembly, which is based out of New York, I spend a lot of time on airplanes. At first I was dreading the frequent cross-country flying but I’ve grown to love it. Sometimes I read, sometimes I code, sometimes I write, but going off the grid for 5-hour stretches allows me to come up with thoughts and ideas that just aren’t possible for me on a normal workday.”

—Nathan Bashaw
Dash Builder & PM, General Assembly


“I buy coffee (usually at Peet’s) each morning on my way to work.

It feels like a splurge but it’s totally worth it. Caffeine makes me a happier, better person — and I get through emails that much faster!”

—Angie Chang
Co-founder, Women 2.0

Do you have a favorite routine or ritual that helps you stay sane as an entrepreneur? Share with us in the comments!

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